The Fensomes Golf Format Explained

Fensomes, or Fensome, is the name of golf competition format that is a variation on alternate shot. Fensomes is for 2-person teams and can be played as match play (tournament bracket or just a way for a group of four golfers to pair off into teams and compete) or used for a stroke-play tournament. The Fensome format also goes by the name "St. Andrews Foursomes."

Unlike in standard alternate shot (also known as foursomes), in Fensomes, both golfers hit drives. The best of the two drives is selected and the golfers play alternate shot from there into the hole. And that brings up the main question about Fensomes: Who plays the second stroke?

In Fensome, which golfer plays the second stroke is determined before the round begins. One golfer on the team is tabbed to play the second stroke on all odd-numbered holes (1, 3, 5, etc.) while the other plays the second stroke on all the even-numbered holes (2, 4, 6, etc.).

Perhaps the most-similar alternate-shot format to Fensomes is one called Greensomes. In Greensomes, both players on a side tee off and the best of those drives is selected. Then, the golfer whose drive was discarded plays the second stroke. Which golfer hits the second shot is based on which of the two drives is chosen for the team to use.

The difference in Fensomes is that the identity of the golfer who plays the second stroke is set before the round even begins, and has nothing to do with which of the two drives is selected for play.

Example: Golfer A and B are teamed for a Fensomes tournament. They decide before the round that A will be play the second stroke on even holes, B on odd holes. Both tee off on Hole 1. Let's say Golfer B's drive is chosen. In Greensomes, that would mean that A would play the second stroke. But in Fensomes, in this example, we already know that B is playing the second stroke — because A and B agreed before the round that A plays the second stroke on even holes, B on odd holes.

From there, it's just standard alternate shot. On the first hole in our example, B played the second stroke. So A plays the third, B the fourth, and so on, until the ball is in the hole. On the second hole, A will play the second stroke, so B will play the third, A the fourth, and so on.

The two golfers on a Fensome side should employ whatever strategy they deem appropriate in deciding which of them will play the second strokes on even holes vs. odd holes. Honestly assess one another's strengths and weaknesses, and compare it to the scorecard and where the different types of holes fall in the round.

Where does the name "Fensome" come from? Good question! "Fensome" is a Scottish surname, a variation of Fenton, and it could be that the format was originally spread by someome with that name.

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